As I've posted several times before, half of our immigrants aren't a problem. They contribute positively to per capita GDP and place few demands on public resources. As the ippr found, they can largely be classified by country of origin; from the US, Canada, India, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. But others have a deleterious effect on the economy, sucking down our PC GDP and making parasitic demands of our public services, crowding-out our own poor in competition for scarce resources. They, too, can largely be classified by county of origin; Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Portugal, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. They come here for our free housing, free health care and generous benefits system.
So Point One. Any immigration policy must be targeted at the latter; we must turn away the chronically sick, the indolent, the unqualified, the ignorant, the unskilled, those too old or too frail to work and all their dependants.
There were several countries missing from either list above whose nationals have a mixed economic effect but who are here in very large numbers, principally Nigeria, Poland and the Baltic states. The NHS couldn't function without its Nigerian and Ghanaian staff, but paradoxically maternity units in London are crowded full of Nigerian girls sprogging on the NHS. The other characteristic of these cohorts is that they send money home, and a lot of it. Taking money out of the economy in this way and at this time is a bad thing. The number of illegal Nigerian overstayers is massive; the FCO has estimated there between 800,000 and 3m Nigerians in the UK (and it seems most of them are here in South London). Realistically, I reckon there are 1m Nigerians here, perhaps half of whom shouldn't be.
So Point Two. Not only the reintroduction of exit controls but a rigorous combing-out of illegal overstayers and measures to deport EU nationals who aren't working. Perhaps we should consider a privatised immigration service; in the days when we just had Traffic Wardens, few tickets were issued, but after the introduction of competitive parking enforcement services, the private sector responded magnificently, issuing millions of additional tickets. Powers for licensed bailiffs, parking enforcement firms and suchlike (Group 4 etc.) to detect and identify illegals, with a 'bounty' of say £1,000 for every one deported, would make rapid inroads into the backlog. This would also play well with the electorate. And I dare say that such firms would employ a fair number of legal Nigerians to some advantage ...
Finally, as much as I value the relationship we have with Commonwealth nations, we must bite the bullet and restrict the right of Commonwealth citizens to live and vote here. Reciprocal rights that were almost academic when travel to the UK meant many weeks at sea and a liner ticket that cost five years' wages are grossly outdated in an era of dirt cheap and instant air travel.
The coming emergency budget will make assumptions about the economic consequences of immigration at current high levels; demand for schools, hospitals, buses, housing and welfare are real costs. Cameron has an opportunity to be bold, and to cement his pact with the British public. If Clegg will let him.